In the Queen’s bedroom at Osborne House, may be found a quite extraordinary chintz pattern. Used for the bed hangings of the Queen’s bed, as well as the sofa and curtains, the material has been adopted in a modern context for the room, having originally been for the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert. The Queen and the Royal Family would often cross the Solent to Osborne in either the yacht Victoria and Albert, or a smaller yacht called the Fairy.
Sofas seem to have featured indirectly in many early episodes in the Queen’s married life, from sitting with Prince Albert on the sofa in her dressing-room at Buckingham Palace after the wedding ceremony, when she gave the Prince his own wedding ring (Elizabeth Longford, Queen Victoria, 152), to sitting on the sofa the evening of their wedding day with a throbbing headache whilst Albert ‘sat on a footstool by my side’. Then there were the occasions during her first pregnancy with the Princess Royal when she was encouraged to remain on the sofa as much as possible.
In 1901, the Queen would die in her bedroom at Osborne, on a small couch or sofa-bed, surrounded by her family. When this happened, the blinds symbolically were pulled down, as the curtains of the stage of the world fell on the Queen’s life and over the whole Victorian era that bore her name. The bedroom was preserved as a ‘shrine’ for the next fifty years, a parallel perhaps to how she kept the Blue Room at Windsor as a beautiful, living monument to the Prince Consort after he died.
The sofa in the Queen’s Bedroom contains, however, a most remarkable detail. Romantic in the extreme, the chintz pattern incorporates the profiles of both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, in the delicate tracing of the rose stems. A similar floral pattern scheme can be seen in a photograph of the bedroom of Princess Alice and Prince Ludwig ‘Louis’ of Hesse after their wedding at Osborne in 1862; certainly the bed hangings and sofa have a type of floral cotton that resembles the later use in the Queen’s bedroom – a wreath of flowers with the initials ‘LA’ entwined over the marriage bed.
A photograph of the Queen’s bedroom at Osborne by Jabez Hughes in 1875, shows a wreath on the bedhead and a picture of Albert, with the pocket for the Prince Consort’s watch and – floral coverings for the sofa and bed hangings, though probably not at this point, the extraordinary chintz in question.
It remains a favourite quest for those entering the Queen’s Bedroom today, to find the profiles of the royal couple from within the rose pattern of the printed cotton.
©Elizabeth Jane Timms, 2019.